“The Crowd was with Him”

This coming Sunday is one of the high points of the Christian calendar, Palm Sunday. Then would follow Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day, all occasions when we would meet together as the Body of Christ.

It is completely ironic that at a time when we want to be together to celebrate and share in the body of Christ we cannot.

Like all ‘successful’ viruses Covid-19 has found a way to hijack part of our body – the lungs, to grow and reproduce. Like all coronaviruses it has also found a way to hijack our humanity, the basic need of closeness and community. We have found ourselves having the resist the natural compulsion to embrace or even shake hands. Our desire to be with others is suspended as are family gatherings for birthdays, baptisms, weddings and funerals.

It also means that we cannot gather together as the body of Christ to remember his passion or celebrate his ressurection. I would be lying to say that watching worship on line was as fulfilling as being there in person.

One unnerving thing about this virus is it makes us feel that our bodies are betraying us. This is true not just for our physical bodies but also our social and ecclesial bodies. Assembling for worship, that is, becoming the body of Christ, with the people we love now carries risk for ourselves and others. Celebrating the body of Christ through bread and wine is now potentially dangerous.

So how can we continue to be the body of Christ as this crisis unfolds? How do those of us who need the body of Christ like we need bread and water continue to receive it?

Firstly, while the church services may be one of the clearest places to encounter Christ , it is not the only one. We can re-embrace the presence of Christ in the Scriptures. Many Church publishers, are providing resources free on line and we have the thoughts on the Sunday lectionary readings by Revd. Stephen. Also many churches are streaming worship online, so we can feast at the table of God’s word even if we cannot receive Christ’s bread at our Easter Communion.

We can also celebratethe body of Christ in countless ways in our community. One way, paradoxically, is to protect the body of Christ by fasting from worship and avoiding physical contact with each other.

But there will be plenty of other opportunities to be the body of Christ in serving the vulnerable in the coming weeks, even if from an appropriate distance. Jesus teaches us in Mt 25, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” How can we use our time to support those in our community who are more vulnerable? How can we use our resources to support those in our community who are economically vulnerable?

In this time in which we are not able to encounter Christ at worship or in Holy Communion, we always have the opportunity to encounter Christ in the vulnerable, even in ways that protect ourselves and those we wish to help from further risk. A meal or groceries left on a doorstep, a contribution to a fund for unemployed workers, a check-in with an isolated older person or a friend who has suddenly become a homeschooling parent—we can all do something, for someone, in this time.

This Lent, we are being forced into a strange sort of fasting from the body of Christ in our worship. We might notice the hunger, the absence that comes from this fast so as to appreciate it yet more deeply when, in Easter joy, we are able to receive the body of Christ in these ways again. Fasting now may help us appreciate Christ’s presence in our church and our worship that celebrate it more clearly after this too has passed. It may not happen on the “official” date of Easter, but the lesson of the rhythms of our church is that Easter joy and feast follows Lenten sacrifice and fast like the rising dawn follows the darkness of night.

May God keep us all safe in these difficult times. May we be the body of Christ to each other and the most vulnerable around us. And by doing so, may we come to receive with greater gratitude the body of Christ wherever he meets us.

Grace and peace to you,

Alan.

Easter cross

On Facebook an idea was suggested from a church who usually put their Cross outside with daffodils on like we do. The idea is because of the STAY HOME SITUATION – they are going to be making Crosses in a variety of ways and displaying them in their windows. I hope our Churches could likewise.

Kay Davies. (Stockland Green)

What’s On – Week Beginning 29th March 2020

WORSHIP AT HOME

Bible readings, Hymns and Psalms from the Methodist Prayer Handbook:
Sunday 29th March: John 11:1-45, StF 303, Psalm 130
Monday 30th March: Song of Solomon 2:1-17, StF 269, Psalm 23
Tuesday 31st March: Song of Solomon 3:1-5, StF 272, Psalm 102:1-11, 16-23
Wednesday 1st April: Song of Solomon 5:2-8, StF 277, Psalm 102:12-28
Thursday 2nd April: Song of Solomon 7:10-13, StF 279, Psalm 105:4-9
Friday 3rd April: Song of Solomon 8:1-4, StF 280, Psalm 126
Saturday 4th April: Song of Solomon 8:5b-7, StF 282, Psalm 121
Sunday 5th April (Palm Sunday): Matthew 27:11-54, StF 277, Psalm 31:9-16
Find Reflections on these passages on the Methodist Church Website

 Lectionary Readings for Today
Ezekiel 37.1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8.6-11; John 11.1-45
Read these Scriptures online
For some thoughts on these passages, have a look at Words On The Word

The Methodist Church Worship At Home Sheet
This week’s sheet for you to download and print off at home is here.

Online Streamed Services
The Birmingham District will seek again to offer Sunday worship at 10:30am
Wesley’s Chapel London on Sunday at 11am
SwanBank Methodist Church on Sunday at 10:30am

Weekday Morning Prayers
09:00 Monday-Friday – from Wesley House Cambridge with Resources for following the prayers and readings.  
10:00 Monday-Friday – from Wesley’s Chapel London

Worship Resources
 These resources have been generously provided by the following:
Roots On The Web 
The Family Friendly Churches Trust 
The Worship Cloud & 12 Baskets – Free Vine Resources
Illustrated Ministry’s Junior Church Activity Sheets

Don’t become an Awfulizer*

We live in strange times. There are lots of awful things happening right now. We are afraid of what is going to happen next and the temptation is to become an Awfulizer*

We are fearful of what is happening and then our imagination grows it into the worst case scenario:-

“Cornavirus is spreading. What if I am infected? What if I already have it and I don’t know yet? What if I spreading it to my family? What happens if we all get it? What if I die from this?”

The fact is that our fears can spread quicker than the virus and we are taken to our most extreme what-if scenarios. We quickly start on the downward spiral of imagining the worst.

Break the spiral by trying some simple steps:-

  1. Get factual data – Filter through what you read, hear and see each day. Is it a fact? Is it opinion or is it rumour? (e.g. All our toilet rolls are imported from China -RUMOUR, NOT TRUE.)
  2. Have a good perspective – Remind yourself of the troubles you have faced in the past and survived! You may have over-worried in the past about things that never occurred, the same is true today.
  3. Don’t become a news addict – Do you feel butterflies in the tummy when you turn on the news? And then a wave of fear when the initial excitement fades? Do you turn on the news channel at breakfast and turn it off at bedtime? If so you need to wean your self off news binging. Limit yourself to just watching the news a couple of times a day. And never, never, never get your news from social media!
  4. Give your self a good talking to – Remember as a child when you had a nightmare or were scared? Remember what your grandmother said to you? Tell yourself the same thing now!
  5. Practice gratitude – List three things to be grateful for each day. Spend time thinking about them rather than worrying. What we focus on grows and so we find more things to be grateful for and less to worry about.( I use a simple mindfulness journal. Contact me if you want to know more.)

As humans we continue to evolve. We learn new things as we face crises and overcome problems together. The same is true in the present crisis, we will overcome it, we will learn and we will be stronger.

For the present look for the helpers. Connect with those around you. Allow the uncertainty of the days to bond us together as we explore ways of being church when we can’t go to church.

Julian of Norwich reminds us that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” written during a time of pestilence, around 1370.

God bless and keep safe,

Alan Smithson.

(* Not a real word, but it sound good!)

“Words On The Word”

Over the coming weeks I plan to contribute my thoughts on the Lectionary Readings for each Sunday, which some folk around the Circuit may wish to read at home in place of a sermon. Rather than create multiple similar posts each week, I will simply replace old editions with the latest issue. May God bless us all as we open the Scriptures together.

Words On The Word – Sunday 29th March